DIVING reports reveal the Boscombe Surf Reef is now twice as badly damaged as when it closed.

The loose sand and material from the damaged bags are wearing down their neighbours, the report said.

A former councillor warned: “It’s falling to pieces – it’s beyond repair.”

The reports say two ‘Spine’ bags, the biggest on the reef, are now deflated, two neighbouring bags are partially deflated, and fifth is wearing down.

Last Spring, when the reef was shut for safety reasons, divers found only one bag deflated and partly deflated, and damage to the others.

The reports are summaries of diving inspections carried out in November and January. They were released to the Echo after a Freedom of Information Request.

The Echo published photos last month that showed the gap in the surface of the reef had got wider over the past year and the reports confirm the damage is worse.

The council has said the reef was hit by a boat. At the time, reports found only two of the 12 marker buoys in place.

Former Southbourne Cllr Basil Ratcliffe had raised questions about the longevity of the geotextile bags 10 years ago.

He said: “It’s falling to pieces. I spoke to a former senior officer recently and he said ‘we were both right’ – it’s all come true.

“They can’t repair it now. This was £3 million of funds that could have been spent elsewhere.”

Mark Smith, director of tourism, said: “It is important to note the areas where further deterioration is evident are mainly found beneath and around the missing container [bag C4] and the container next to it [bag C5].

“It has already been proven that the most seriously damaged was subject to boat propeller damage, as confirmed by the insurance settlement. [for C4].

“We are still in a contractual obligation with ASR Ltd which requires them to replace two containers and make additional repairs to the reef.”

The Echo has repeatedly emailed several contacts at New Zealand based ASR but has not received a reply.

Questions raised

THE latest diving reports raise questions over whether the council will be able to claim for the damage, how it was caused, and if there are funds for repairs.

Bournemouth Council has successfully claimed £196,531, less £25,000 excess, for bag C4, which was removed in the summer of 2011.

However the insurance claim for bag C5, now completely deflated, has not yet been paid out, despite cabinet member for tourism Cllr Rod Cooper claiming in October the money was just days away.

He admitted the cause of the damage was “not clear cut”.

The January inspection found Bag C6 is now deflated along 15 metres and suffering from wear caused by leaking sand from C7.

Bag C7 was found to be deflated for a distance of 30 metres, just under half its length, and had loose folds of material. The top seam had lost its protective silicone coating, exposing the stitching seam.

Bag C8 also had abrasive wear for around 15 metres caused by loose material from C7.

The council did not answer questions on whether it has the money to repair the damage or whether insurance claims will be filed for bags C6 and C7.

Surfable waves

A SURFER told the Echo the reef is still producing surfable waves and being used.

He said: “From when we first started surfing the reef, which was about a month before it was finished, I have noticed some changes.

“But in all honesty it is no better or worse than it was originally, one thing is for sure when it breaks well it is a great wave, especially for bodyboarders.”

Bournemouth Council said: “The reef has been closed for safety reasons and we would advise people not to use it.”